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Business leaders are increasingly pessimistic about whether college students are being adequately prepared for careers, according to an annual survey.

Nearly nine out of 10 of 500 executives polled said graduates lack the necessary skills to succeed. And more than half said the United States is lagging behind its economic rivals in this measure.

Nor does the corporate class think universities and colleges are getting better at career preparation. Fewer than 30 percent said the situation will improve in the next 10 to 15 years.

The executives rank communication, interpersonal skills, and adaptability among the most important things they think graduates should know, according to the survey, commissioned by Northeastern University.

But only 28 percent said most degree-holders do.

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Jon Marcus, higher-education editor, has written about higher education for the Washington Post, USA Today, Time, the Boston Globe, Washington Monthly, is North America higher-education correspondent for...

Letters to the Editor

7 Letters

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  1. I think it’s ironic that companies say they can’t find grads with good communication, interpersonal skills and adaptability. Could it be that the graduates that are strong in these skills/ personality traits are finding it difficult to get past the “electronic” process in order to have a chance to demonstrate their skills? It seems fairly difficult to assess these interpersonal skills via electronic process! The question is…how do graduates that have these skills get past this BIG blockage?

  2. Krugman debunked that survey:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/31/opinion/krugman-jobs-and-skills-and-zombies.html?_r=1

    “The basis for this claim? A telephone survey in which executives were asked, ‘Which of the following do you feel best describes the “gap” in the U.S. workforce skills gap?’ followed by a list of alternatives. Given the loaded question, it’s actually amazing that 8 percent of the respondents were willing to declare that there was no gap.”

  3. Krugman is responding to a different survey by a different company. So Krugman may still be correct in his overall take, provided he doesn’t settle for just one survey. But that applies to this report, as well. In the rush to publish, journalists and critics often seem willing to find several sources.

    Perhaps what we need is a “survey of surveys” to see if any consistent pattern emerges. For example, the Economist reported the results of a poll showing that the number one skill employers sought was “critical thinking/problem solving” (June 7th, 2014, p. 30). I want very much for that to be “true” because as a teacher I am trying to encourage students to adopt critical thinking. However, I am under no illusions. In my experience, most people–including employers and university professors–really don’t like the question their own assumptions or to evaluate fairly others’ ideas. If anything, for many people “critical” thinking means destroying others’ ideas. Sometimes I think I’m chasing a chimera.

  4. What about stats for non-college graduates?

    I’d guess the numbers are the same or they can’t find any numbers b/c you need a college degree to get a job.

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